One last time we can thank the lockout for the joys of a condensed schedule — the Lakers and Thunder are going to play the rare playoff back-to-back the next two nights.
Which clearly favors the younger legs and better athletes of the Thunder. It’s going to be a lot harder for the Lakers to control the tempo and limit the Thunders transition points in Game 4.
With the Lakers already down 0-2, that makes Game 3 basically a must win.
Los Angeles feels it should have won Game 2, up 7 with two minutes left, but a Kobe Bryant turnover that led to a Kevin Durant dunk, a Steve Blake turnover, a Durant three and… it snowballed.
Thing is, the Lakers need to basically have the same game again and this time just close it out.
The Lakers did a great job dictating the tempo of Game 2. Big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol did a great job being aggressive on the pick-and-roll cutting off Russell Westbrook’s path to the basket. The result was an isolation heavy, disjointed Thunder offense. The second best offense in the NBA regular season (by points per possession) was held to 77 points.
Look for OKC to counter by just trying to get out and run, and to have better counters on their pick-and-roll. And I just have a feeling the answer will be more James Harden, their best playmaker.
Oklahoma City is the better team. History says that teams that start a series winning the first two win nearly 95 percent of the time. But expect a desperate Lakers team on Friday night. This is still a team with rings, a team with pride that believes they still can win it. Win it all. They are not going to roll over.
And they know this is must win.
Kanye West – when he isn’t tweeting to invalidate the claims of dozens of women on nothing more than his own suppositions – is tweeting to Michael Jordan
Mark Parker is CEO of Nike, a company that collaborated with West on the Air Yeezy before an unhappy West bolted for Adidas. Jordan, of course, is a Nike ally and known for the Jumpman logo on his brand.
That’s why Kanye rapped in “Facts:”
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman
We bring you the important news.
(hat tip: Jovan Buha of Fox Sports)
Kevin Durant has taken plenty of criticism for his reported interest in signing with the Warriors.
Don’t chase a ring by just bolting for the best team. Build up your own team. Kobe Bryant would never do that.
Kobe Bryant requested a trade from the Lakers in 2007 – when the Cavaliers tried trading everyone but LeBron James for him – and the Bulls were Kobe’s top choice. Kobe had a no-trade clause, so he had some power to choose his next team. The rest of his list?
Kobe, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
It was Chicago, San Antonio (or) Phoenix.
The Spurs were reigning NBA champions, and the Suns were coming off a 61-win season. These teams were the class of the league.
They also had strong offensive identities – Gregg Popovich’s ball-movement-happy system in San Antonio and Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack in Phoenix. How would Kobe have fit? Now, that’s a great what-if – especially because both teams had the assets to create intriguing trade packages.
The Spurs could’ve built an offer around Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili, the Suns around Shawn Marion and/or Amar’e Stoudemire. Could you imagine Kobe and Tim Duncan or Kobe and Steve Nash in 2007? It wouldn’t have been anything like the over-the-hill version we saw in Los Angeles a few years later.
Of course, Kobe stuck with the Lakers, who traded for Pau Gasol and won a couple more titles. Kobe led them to those championships, and he deserves credit for staying the course.
But, no matter what Durant decides this summer, remember all players consider as many options as they have in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with someone leaving a job for a better one when he has the ability to do so.
Even Kobe – a self-declared “Laker for life” – tried to do it.
The Knicks reportedly believed hiring Derek Fisher made them a contender for Kevin Durant this summer.
If they were right, firing Fisher – a respected former teammate of Durant with the Thunder – certainly didn’t help New York’s ability to lure the superstar in free agency.
Ian Begley of ESPN:
New York faces long odds to land Durant to begin with. And their chances took a hit after Derek Fisher was fired, league sources say.
I suppose it was possible Durant would’ve picked the Knicks, because I don’t believe Durant has decided where he’ll sign. But their odds looked so slim, anyway.
If the Knicks believed Fisher wasn’t the best coach for them, they were right to move on. Keeping him for Durant would have been foolish.
Is there a way New York can gain credibility with Durant? What about hiring former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks?
Brooks is a name to think about, for one reason: The Knicks have been informed that their chances of landing Kevin Durant this summer would be influenced by hiring Brooks, according to league sources.
Begley implies Brooks would help New York sign Durant, but his words don’t explicitly say that.
“Would be influenced.” Positively? Negatively? Won’t the coach of any team Durant considers influence his decision? Durant, while thanking Brooks, quickly and fully got on board with the Thunder’s decision to fire him.
And informed by whom? Do we trust the Knicks to properly assess whether the source of that information is credible?
It’s probably not worth exploring those questions, anyway. Brooks has neither Phil Jackson nor triangle ties, which seem to be perquisites.
At least New York can still use Carmelo Anthony to recruit Durant.
Kobe Bryant requested a trade from the Lakers in 2007, and he later said he preferred to be dealt to the Bulls.
Though Kobe had a no-trade clause, the Lakers explored other options.
They talked with the Mavericks and even agreed to terms with the Pistons, but Kobe vetoed Detroit. The Lakers also spoke with the Cavaliers.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the event, the Lakers once contacted the Cavs to investigate whether Cleveland would make James available in a possible Bryant trade.
The Cavs said that James, indeed, was untouchable, sources said. Then they attempted to make the Lakers a different offer for Bryant, offering anyone else on their team in a package for him. The Lakers had no interest.
For Bryant, who had a no-trade clause in his contract, the answer was simple.
“I never would’ve approved it. Never. The trade to go to Cleveland? Never,” Bryant told Holmes.
This is just as the LeBron-Kobe arguments were kicking into gear. Regardless of which player was better at the time, LeBron – six years younger – was definitely more valuable than Kobe.
So, it’s unsurprising the Lakers asked and even less surprising the Cavaliers said no.
And even less surprising than that was the Lakers rejecting Cleveland’s counter offer. Here were the other Cavaliers during the 2006-07 season:
- Larry Hughes
- Zydrunas Ilgauskas
- Drew Gooden
- Sasha Pavlovic
- Donyell Marshall
- Anderson Varejao
- Damon Jones
- Daniel Gibson
- Eric Snow
- Shannon Brown
- Ira Newble
- David Wesley
- Scot Pollard
- Dwayne Jones
That scrap heap doesn’t come close to Kobe.
The what-if of a LeBron-for-Kobe or Kobe-for-other-Cavs swap is intriguing, but both ideas were non-starters for at least one side. None of that came close to happening.
But, nine years later, that barely makes the discussion less fun.